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Sharapova vs. Kvitova: “The Big One”

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Originally published on: 25/01/12 06:29

She’s got three Grand Slam singles titles already but Maria Sharapova remains in serious contention for a fourth. It’s been a while since her last title in 2008, when she won here at Melbourne Park, and the nature of her 6-2 6-3 victory over Ekateria Makarova was impressive.

While her semi-final opponent Petra Kvitova is modest in her assessment of her own game, the Russian oozes confidence both on court and in the press room.

Sharapova’s win today will not go down as the most memorable of her career as she eased through in just one hour and 27 minutes and was untroubled by Makarova, who is currently ranked 56 in the world, but the presser was entertaining.

First she analysed her match.

“You know I just really wanted to take advantage of my game and improve from the previous match. I think I stepped up when I had to,” she said. “I played well throughout. Obviously it went back and forth. She got a lot of balls back. But it was great to finish it.”

Of her upcoming semi-final with Kvitova, Sharapova admitted: “It will certainly be tough.” The two have squared up three times before including at last year’s Wimbledon final, where the Czech picked up her maiden slam, and to use Sharapova’s own phrase, their next encounter is “the big one”.

The 24 year old answered the random questions thrown out at her, including one that suggested she might want to follow in the footsteps of Jimmy Connors, who retired at 40 years old.

“I can guarantee right now you’re not going to see me here at 40 years old. If I’m here at 40 years old, I have major problems. Oh, goodness,” she responded, to much laughter.

Even so, Sharapova still plans to be on tour for plenty more years yet.

“I see myself playing this sport for many more years because it’s something that gives me the most pleasure in my life,” she said. “I think it helps when you know you’re good at something, and you can always improve. It obviously helps with the encouragement.”

Since 2007, the average age of women Grand Slam winners is 25 and three quarters. Given the smattering of names like “Williams” and “Henin” and “Schiavone” on that list, the average age is reduced by the fact Sharapova was only 20 when she won here in 2008 and Kvitova was only 21 when she defeated Sharapova in the Wimbledon final last year. Both are well below the average age in the record books that they helped to create.

Ahead of a fascinating clash, the Russian will aim to equalise the head to head score in which she currently trails 2-1. The match is scheduled for Thursday January 26 –  significant as it is Australia Day, a public holiday. It really will be a ‘big one’ then.

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